Saturday, September 27, 2008

What Toys Are Bad For Dogs?

In looking at what toys are bad for dogs, I find that we too easily overlook safety when we consider toys. We buy toys that appeal to us -- not necessarily to dogs -- and the manufacturers know this so they make them with whistles and bells and in colors and shapes that most dogs don’t even recognize let alone are attracted to. But we buy them, so they keep making them. It seems as though they will make anything we will buy and call it a toy regardless of its danger to the dog.

Just ask your vet or the staff at your local emergency animal hospital what toys are bad for dogs. They know because many times they see dogs and cats with toys or pieces of toys stuck in their throats or in their stomachs or intestines. So ultimately we are responsible for our pets safety, no one else.

Aside from the physical dangers of toys that are bad for dogs, I've noticed in the past few years a new trend in toys that make a squeal-type sound when they’re bitten. One of the reasons your dog would rather chew on your hand or arm than a toy is that you react. It mouths you and then hears your voice, sometimes feels your touch and absolutely gets your attention so you become its best “toy”!

In order to make toys more appealing to dogs, some companies add a sound component so that when the pet plays with the toy, it hears either the jingle of a bell or the squeaky sound of a whistle type thing or a clatter. And that gives the dog feedback, thereby making the toy more appealing than silence.

If the toy is made of cloth, either bits of the cloth itself or the thread that sews it together can come out in strings and either wad up in the pet’s throat or be swallowed and wind up in the stomach or intestine. These toys are bad for dogs and can be very dangerous because threads or bits of ribbon or yarn wrapped through the intestine can represent a real danger to the pet. And even if you notice signs of distress such as coughing, hacking, vomiting, dry heaves, or difficulty passing stools and you take your dog quickly for medical treatment, many of the substances do NOT show up on x-rays because they are no more dense than the surrounding tissue.

I’ve had clients whose pets had to undergo extensive surgery throughout several feet of intestine to find the constricting string or blockage from one of toys that are bad for dogs. Your pet doesn’t need extensive surgery nor you the worry and the expense because of a poorly chosen toy.

The sound issue becomes important when dealing with other animals and should be considered in learning what toys are bad for dogs. Nearly every mammal on earth squeaks or makes a screechy sound as an infant in distress. When your pet mouths its new toy and the toy squeaks to encourage further mouthing, you may literally be training your dog to mouth your cat or kitten to a point of danger or death. In nature that screech sound is supposed to inhibit hard contact – not instigate more. And puppies raised with such toys may literally increase their oral actions on a kitten vocally expressing distress.

Suddenly we have a severely injured or dead kitten because the well-intentioned dog simply “broke its toy”. If we then see what happened and impulsively reprimand the dog, it gets confused becauxe from its point of view we are punishing it for playing with its companion animal. It had no intention of hurting the cat but did because all of its early toys made the same screech sound to instigate further oral action. So some toys that are bad for dogs desensitize the dog to instinctive reactions since they were encouraged to play with them.

A word about rawhide. It’s a very popular and well-known material for chew toys, but if the hides are tanned in Asian countries -- and many are — arsenic is often used as one of the chemicals in the tanning process so this seemingly attractive toy may actually be a bad toy for your dog. Granted the arsenic is in very minute amounts by the time the finished product is given to your pet, BUT even minute amounts over a few years time, can represent a serious threat.

Also, rawhide is literally the skin or hide of an animal. Another form is called leather. So if you give your puppy wonderful rawhide toys and chewies for several months and come home one day to find your new designer shoes all chewed up or your leather cushion gouged away, you taught your dog to chew leather! So this is definitely something to be aware of in considering what toys are bad for dogs.

Many of the clients with whom I work—because of their dogs chewing on things like shoes, briefcases, eyeglass cases, and leather book covers, have the Euraka light bulb go on when I ask if they used rawhide chewies to get through the teething stage as a puppy!

Regarding balls, such as tennis and racquet and soft rubber pink balls, many dogs have the bites strength to compress these. I have been with client dogs who were very nicely playing with their ball while I was dealing with the owners and suddenly the dog showed severe distress and I reached in and had to forceably pull the ball from the dog’s throat. What happened was that the dog compressed the ball with its biting molars, but while flipping its head around the ball worked its way in between the rows of teeth at the back of the mouth and reformed and popped back in shape. While it's at the front of the throat or the back of the mouth, the dog has no bite pressure to recompress and it was suddenly choking dangerously on its own toy. That’s why size and composition are so critical when considering what toys are bad for dogs – especially for unsupervised use.

Tennis balls are a popular toy for dogs BUT the surface is more abrasive than rock! The tennis ball coating is intended to “grab” both the racquet strings and the ground so they wear the teeth down if gnawed on. One of my clients spent several hundred dollars having root canals done on his Lab's teeth because the tennis balls wore the teeth down to the point it became painful for the dog to chew anything hard including dry kibble. So these are definitely bad toys for dogs.

Again, YOU must be your pet’s advocate for safety and well-being. Tennis balls are fine for a brief round of fetch or retrieval games, but then stick them in the drawer or a box; do not leave them available for long-term chewing or gnawing.

Some of you may be aware that the "pimple ball" has gone through a recall after killing pets whose tongues got caught in the hole in the ball as the ball reinflated.

SO, I'm hoping that this description of what toys are bad for dogs has been helpful as your choose toys for your pets!

You can also learn more about my "Talkin Dog" methods of stopping dog behavior problems without jerking, yelling, squirting, or clicking.

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